On 13th November 1989, the Berlin Wall came down and Over the Top with Jim was launched at the Boomerang Theatre, Annerley in Brisbane. The Wall is still down and Over the Top is still in print. While some publishers say “books have the shelf life of yoghurt” ABCBooks and HarperCollins have kept it fresh. Over the Top is now included in The Big Book of Lunn along with its sequel Head Over Heels. According to the original publisher, University of Queensland Press (UQP), “Over the Top with Jim is the biggest-selling childhood memoir in Australian history”.
The launch night at the Boomerang in 1989 was not covered by the media so I should tell you something about it here. More than 350 people turned up to hear Australia’s then Chief Censor John Dickie (who was in my class at Mary Immaculate Convent) publicly censor the book. He told the audience: “I’m not convinced this book should be unleashed on the public because I’m very worried about all the mentions of impure thoughts.” My sister Gay tap-danced and did the splits on stage, and I talked about how I drew my breath in pain to tell my story – as I remembered my father Fred and my mother Olive as they were in their cake shop in the 1950s. Knowing I would never again see Fred make a heart-shaped sponge cake while saying “This will make some fella easy to love tonight” and Olive, a big woman in every way who wasn’t afraid of anything, telling me: “Hughie, never borrow sorrow from tomorrow”.